Sitting down for meals together offers families a regular chance to connect more deeply in an overly-scheduled world. The relaxed, unhurried banter about the happenings of the day casually carried on while passing the salt and pepper or grabbing second helpings provides parents a glimpse into their child’s daily life they might not otherwise get.
Studies show the bonding and more intimate relationships developed during family table time result in plenty of other surprising benefits as well, including lower rates of depression, substance abuse and teen pregnancy, and higher grade-point averages and self-esteem.
Cari Brenek, Texas mother of five kids ranging in age from 13 to 18, says her family looks forward to the time together.
“Everyone is so busy that we like us all to have a little face time at least four to five nights a week,” she says.
When her kids were younger and had more practices or games in the evening, a set eating time was scrapped in favor of whatever time the majority of her brood was home.
Years ago, Jane Precourt of Maine adopted that same flexibility in planning dinner for her two children.
“We still manage to do it seven days a week, even though we eat at 4 p.m. some days and 8 p.m. on others,” Precourt says. “It’s more of a challenge now, but I value the time together very much, and the kids have told me at various times that they do, too.”
The decision of both moms to choose a revolving dinner time to fit the night’s schedule helps them ensure more of the family can eat together more often, but that plan may not work for everyone. When it doesn’t, the eat-together meal doesn’t have to be in the evening, and certainly not every night.
Brenek, whose kids’ schools have similar start times, finds it easier to be consistent in the mornings. With seven schedules to consider, “weekday breakfasts are the only times that everyone is always home,” she says.
While she used to cook a hot breakfast each weekday, several of her kids now opt out of the morning meal, so those that eat grab something quick and convenient, and the rest just convene in the kitchen before heading out the door.
“They all sit together for morning devotional and prayer whether they eat or not,” she says.
Especially busy families may choose one particular day or night that everyone knows is an almost sacred time that everyone will eat together, perhaps Sunday lunch or Friday evenings.
By // Stacy Barry
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